Even with all the technological advancements, you cannot write off the power of networking and interpersonal relationships. Human interactions and connections can skyrocket your career, keep you updated on developments in your field, lead to new opportunities and business partnerships.
Until two years ago, you could attend events, conferences, shake hands, strike a casual conversation during lunch or coffee break and boom! You have expanded your professional circle. How does one do that in the age of restrictions and video conferences? Has networking also become collateral damage to the pandemic? Let’s take a look.
How much effort should you put into networking....
Let’s be clear. Networking is not opportunistic small talk. You are not schmoozing or manipulating your way into newer opportunities. It is the process of developing long-term relationships in your professional circles for mutual benefits and just expanding your perspectives.
Striking a conversation and following it through might not come naturally to you. But it is a skill that can be developed. Your communication skills will grow by leaps and bounds. It doesn’t matter which stage of your career you are in, networking can lead to advancements. You can gain a mentor or become one, have open conversations about industry insights and collect information on developments and opportunities that are not even public yet. When you have built that level of rapport and trust, you are also looking at a lifetime of referrals and partnership options.
So, yes, as much as you would like to hide from the world after a long day’s work, the energy you invest in networking will bear fruit.
Virtual networking is the way to go. It is faster, easier, cheaper and most importantly, reduces the pressure of spontaneous conversation. What can begin as a simple exchange of information can develop into a full-blown exchange and a tentative friendship over shared experiences of the pandemic.
Make full use of tech. Social media is of course there. Professional meeting platforms (think Linkedin or even a domain specific one) would be good place to start. VR hubs and meeting rooms are also meant for such opportunities. And the best part, if you panic because you are running out of things to say, your avatars can find shared things to do.
Here’s the hard part. There is no rulebook on how to build relationships, excepting maybe one: always be kind and empathetic. (It should become a rule, don’t you think?) Beyond that, networking happens outside the box. Here are a few tips that might help you in your process.
- Sustain. Keep up with the conversation, feel free to ask questions and keep it going. Check in on people over time, making them feel appreciated and cared for.
- Drop the usual/ formal greetings. Replace it with messages of kindness, sincerity and shared experiences of the pandemic.
- When you have a sufficient rapport going, try to organise a video call, just the two of you or a small gathering so you can actually see each other.
- Take some time to comment publicly/ privately on social media posts.
- Embrace LinkedIn to the fullest.
- Keep your online profile up to date.
- It is not about asking for favours. You are building a genuine relationship. You work on both giving and receiving sides go the street.
- Lastly, be patient. With the uncertainties of the industry and pandemic fatigue, just be glad if you get a response at all. Don’t give up too soon. Allow the other person the benefit of a few days to get back to you.
Happy networking! Good luck.